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Thursday, 1 March, 2001, 04:19 GMT
Iraq and UN plan further talks
Iraqi FM Mohammad Sahaf and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan
Mohammad Said al-Sahaf and Kofi Annan: Bad timing
Iraq and the United Nations have agreed to meet in April or May for a second round of talks aimed at resolving the impasse over Security Council sanctions against Iraq.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has just ended two days of meetings with an Iraqi delegation, said he hoped the dialogue "might eventually lead to an end of the current stalemate between Iraq and the Security Council".

Iraq wants the sanctions - in force since the Gulf War - to be lifted.

But the UN insists that arms inspectors, who left Iraq in 1998, should be allowed to return, to ensure Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction, nor the capacity to build them in the future.

Analysts blamed the lack of progress in the talks on bad timing. Washington and London are conducting a review of their policy on Iraq.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell has just ended a tour of the Middle East aimed at rebuilding the anti-Iraq coalition of 10 years ago, and has promised to come up with a modified, and targeted, new sanctions regime for Iraq.

Sanctions eroded

The dates being considered for the next sessions in New York are 9 to 13 April or early May, diplomats said, following an Arab League summit in Jordan at the end of March where Iraq is on the agenda.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell
The US is hoping to build a new coalition against Iraq
The leader of the Iraqi delegation, Foreign Minister Mohammad Said al-Sahaf, said on Tuesday that the first round of talks had gone smoothly.

A key condition for lifting sanctions is that Iraq allow UN weapons inspectors back into the country - something Iraq has refused to do.

UN Security Council sanctions require that weapons inspectors not only certify that Iraq no longer has any weapons of mass destruction, but that a system is put in place that will monitor possible future production of such weapons.

Shift in emphasis

International support for the sanctions, which Iraq says are hitting innocent civilians, was further eroded following this month's US and British air strikes near Baghdad.

During his tour of the Middle East, Mr Powell said he had found solid support from Iraq's neighbours for a shift in the emphasis of sanctions.

Saudi Arabia and Kuwait back the US proposal, while Syria, Mr Powell said, had pledged to put its pipeline from Iraq under the control of the UN sanctions system.

Syria has not commented on this announcement.

Syria is believed to be importing Iraqi oil - 100,000 barrels a day according to the US - without UN approval.

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See also:

27 Feb 01 | Middle East
Powell presses Europe over Iraq
26 Feb 01 | Middle East
Annan pressed on Iraq sanctions
21 Feb 01 | Middle East
Iraq takes hard line with UN
26 Feb 01 | Middle East
Powell aims to plug Iraqi oil flow
25 Feb 01 | Middle East
Western show of strength in Kuwait
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